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The Future of Indie MMOGs

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the don't-have-to-have-ten-million-subs-to-succeed dept.

PC Games (Games) 69

Karen Hertzberg writes "Ask any 10 gamers what constitutes an 'indie MMO' and you'll probably get 10 different answers. But one definition that most can agree on is that an indie game lacks the financial support of a well-funded publisher. But do smaller budgets mean greater freedom? Ten Ton Hammer asked Nathan Richardsson, Executive Producer for CCP (developers of EVE Online), and Todd Harris, Executive Producer of Global Agenda, to share their thoughts on the bright future of independent MMOG development. 'By definition a niche market is a segment that is currently underserved by the mainstream providers. So, to serve that audience a developer typically needs to deliver something really different and innovative vs. just more of the same thing available elsewhere,' says Harris. 'With a big budget there could be a temptation to cover up stale gameplay by shoveling out more content or simply pumping up the marketing hype. However, for an indie developer such as Hi-Rez Studios, the game must stand on its own merits and we find that liberating.'"

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Quality (4, Insightful)

PerZon (181675) | about 5 years ago | (#29363875)

The games popularity should depend on the quality of the game and not the market hype. With a good idea and the urge to follow through it should not matter if the game was made in a studio or a garage

Re:Quality (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29363923)

I tend to agreee with you, but MMOs are a special case. You literally need a "massive" number of players for the game to be any good. Generating a sufficient number of players is hard to do without the marketing hype.

Re:Quality (1)

toriver (11308) | about 5 years ago | (#29366033)

Depends on how many servers/worlds you split the players across, ref. Eve Online's single server or the server merges hitting less popular games as the initial rush of players leave for greener pastures. A game can be profitable without WoW class numbers.

Re:Quality (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 years ago | (#29366177)

It's like saying the only kind of restaurant that can be profitable is McDonald's.

No there are people who love to eat at very nice restaurants. Many of whom, btw, also eat at McDonald's once in awhile.

Re:WOW class numbers (1)

Phrogman (80473) | about 5 years ago | (#29368663)

I agree, but modern players - awash in the sea of figures concerning WOW's popularity - seem to judge a game's success at launch purely based on the number of subscribers. If that number isn't huge, they condemn the game as having failed.
Look at the recent release of Warhammer Online - touted by players to be the next "WOW-killer", even though the publisher stated that was not their focus at all - when it failed to score at least a million subscribers right at release, a lot of players seemed to decide that it had failed completely - based on posts I read in various forums. The game got something like 800k subscribers in the first few weeks. That's a massive success by any rational standards. Yet the reputation it has now is that its dead.

The next title to be tested I think is going to be SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic). I am sure it will do very well initially based on impressions in the current SWG forums, and it has an amazing potential given the IP, but if it fails to score literally millions of subscribers when it goes live, it too will be condemned as a failure.

Star Wars Galaxies was considered a massive success when it went live, but reached only 350k or so subscribers at its peak, and has subsequently dropped to about 50k due to a series of disastrous decisions by management and development. Going back further Dark Age of Camelot was a huge success and had a fantastic launch but I don't think it ever broke 300k subscribers.

My point is that the public has gained the perception that any new MMO that doesn't immediately score at least 1m or so subscribers right at launch is completely doomed, and people will abandon it and return to WOW (thus causing what they fortold) regardless of how good the game is in reality, because they don't see the point in investing time and effort into a game that is going to die in the future. That fickleness is contributing to the lack of success for new games in and of itself I think.

Its not success, its not the quality of the game, its not the genre, although all of those things contribute of course as they should - its the perception that the game has failed before its done so that I think will kill new titles. Thats an impossible standard to uphold, and I think represents a huge barrier to any indie MMO title.

Basically, MMO players are sheep - stupid, skittish, and with no memory at all.

Re:Quality (2, Insightful)

Cornflake917 (515940) | about 5 years ago | (#29366989)

You literally need a "massive" number of players for the game to be any good.

Not necessarily. A well designed MMO can be an enjoyable experience regardless of the number of players on the server at any given time.

Re:Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29375457)

A well designed MMO can be an enjoyable experience

What is there to do down in a well?

Re:Quality (1)

biking42 (1437037) | about 5 years ago | (#29384331)

I totally agree. I've built my own private WOW server and my wife & I enjoy soloing and grouping with each other. In fact we probably play solo more than grouping. It's kinda like having a single-player RPG but with a massive game world. Contrast that to SWG - a game we both loved (pre-NGE) and actually met online playing - the ONLY reason I play occasionally it due to the other players. Though there is SWGEmu and one or two other private server projects I think playing SWG on a private server would be a boring experience indeed.

Re:Quality (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 5 years ago | (#29367413)

Most MMOs are split into servers of a few thousand people, and you only really interact with the dozen or so in your group or guild. There's nothing 'massive' about most MMOs.

Re:Quality (4, Informative)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29364341)

The real problem is that people judge a game based on its production quality. Having a diverse amount of play environments (zones or levels or instances or whatever you're using), having a decent amount of different ways of playing the game (classes, skills, what have you) and pretty graphics to show them off, etc. All of this means resources, and while you can use things like procedural content generation and randomizers to help pack as much fun as you can into the game, it is still hard to compete with something like WOW that has a brazillion dollars thrown at it on a daily basis.

Of course, you can always pick a genre that doesn't require a huge amount of art assets and can be expanded and supported by a small team, like EVE, and do great. Trying to compete in the fantasy genre is going to be really hard, and sadly thats what people like.

Re:Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364743)

"Trying to compete in the fantasy genre is going to be really hard, and sadly thats what people like."

I'd be more into the space genre of games if their biggest timesink wasn't TRAVELLING as opposed to doing something of interest. In Eve online, there are no words for how monotonous I find right-clicking a yellow icon on a table and saying "warp to within 0 m" followed by "jump" over and over again in order to make my travel time "faster." Jumpgate had the same issue.

Re:Quality (2, Interesting)

cowscows (103644) | about 5 years ago | (#29365013)

Yeah, that definitely sucks, but that expansiveness is really one of the most basic characteristics of space. If you take that away, are you even making a space game anymore?

And to be fair, most MMO's (and even sandbox-ish games in general) have some issues with travel time, it's just that in space there's much less to look at so it feels even slower.

Re:Quality (5, Funny)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | about 5 years ago | (#29365219) is still hard to compete with something like WOW that has a brazillion dollars thrown at it on a daily basis.

There are no Brazilian Dollars. Our currency is the Real.

Re:Quality (4, Funny)

julesh (229690) | about 5 years ago | (#29369149)

There are no Brazilian Dollars. Our currency is the Real.

Whereas American currency is Imaginary?

Re:Quality (1)

Secret Rabbit (914973) | about 5 years ago | (#29373309)

Why not put them together and get Complex Currency!

Re:Quality (1)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29419083)

There are no Brazilian Dollars. Our currency is the Real.

Whereas American currency is Imaginary?

Only if you try to take the square root of our net worth.

Re:Quality (1) (1625767) | about 5 years ago | (#29372173)

The games popularity should depend on the quality of the game and not the market hype. With a good idea and the urge to follow through it should not matter if the game was made in a studio or a garage

i agree !!! i have spent countless hours , over 2500 on my game at [] trying to infuse elements that make it more of a addicting yet fun game. one of my key elements was coding in a floating weapon script where there is only one of each of the weapons and the only way to get it to use this is to steal it off another player. it gives the game a nice little twist to it. baz []

Success in general... (4, Insightful)

cthulhuology (746986) | about 5 years ago | (#29363879)

The moral of the story is the same as with any business. You don't need to "win" by beating all of your competitors, you need to "survive". In life, like all infinite games, survival is its own reward. And if you don't understand that, or tend to disagree, please do us all a favor and leave the gene pool. :)

Let's Keep It Mediocre, People!! (3, Funny)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 5 years ago | (#29363919)

You don't need to "win" by beating all of your competitors, you need to "survive"... And if you don't understand that, or tend to disagree, please do us all a favor and leave the gene pool.

Right. We don't want any over-achievers in our gene pool.

Re:Let's Keep It Mediocre, People!! (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#29364181)

The new USA modo.
Reach for the bare minimum!
Strive for mediocracy!
Obtain what is already in front of you.
Take what people are forcing to you.

Re:Let's Keep It Mediocre, People!! (2, Informative)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29364353)

The new USA modo.

I think you meant motto.

Re:Let's Keep It Mediocre, People!! (1)

PingSpike (947548) | about 5 years ago | (#29367439)

He's just practicing what he preaches!

Re:Let's Keep It Mediocre, People!! (1)

drsquare (530038) | about 5 years ago | (#29367501)

It was obviously an abbreviation of 'modus operandi'. You'd know that if you weren't mediocre.

Re:Success in general... (1)

PerZon (181675) | about 5 years ago | (#29363937)

Correct me if I am wrong but don't most indie developers code for the more hardcore and niche market where big studios target a mainstream audience? So to survive financially, the indies need to either change their approach or find a way to reach a larger mass.

Re:Success in general... (3, Interesting)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 5 years ago | (#29363971)

Or "win" by having an incredible amount of fun. Have you played "Kingdom of Loathing"? ( It's one of the best games I've ever played, and a number of friends of mine prefer it to expensive, computation and bandwidth expensive twitch shooters or highly animated games. As an old "Zork" and "rogue" player when they were first publicized, I empathize with their choice.

Re:Success in general... (2, Interesting)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29364371)

I tried it and didn't find it very fun. Then again I didn't like the hack games either, and I know a lot of people love those. Lately I haven't really been enjoying much of anything though, so maybe I've just become old and embittered.

Re:Success in general... (1)

trytoguess (875793) | about 5 years ago | (#29368879)

I find the gameplay itself to be rather simplistic, repetitive, and not too much fun. Not to mention the UI is just terrible, though things are getting better. KoL is certainly not a game I'd recommend to most people. Most enjoyment seem to come from the humor (course you need a strong background in American pop culture), and the fact that it's simplistic nature means new content can be added relatively quickly. As for me, I play using KoLMafia, but do new content manually through the browser. Yea, w/o the bot (Don't worry folks! KoL only gives a limited amount of turns per day, so botting is permitted by the creator.), I would have quit years ago.

Re:Success in general... (1)

sparkchaser (594964) | about 5 years ago | (#29370663)

I used to play it back in the day. It used to be a lot of fun; hell, I met my wife on there. That being said, there has been too much change for the sake of change and I'm not enjoying it at all these days.

Re:Success in general... (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 5 years ago | (#29364445)

And if you don't understand that, or tend to disagree, please do us all a favor and leave the gene pool. :)

Isn't there a "Darwin Award" achievement for doing precisely that?

Indie MMO, but what about .... (4, Interesting)

zwei2stein (782480) | about 5 years ago | (#29363881)

What about amateur MMO / Hobbyist MMO. We have decent enough tools for anyone to pull basic WMMO with roguelike interface with as much ease as making tetris clone years ago. And even then, good mud libraries existed for decades ... why do we not hear more about that? Why don't more people try that?

I, for one, find it much more fun to actually try to code one than actually play fullblown commercial MMO. Two hours a week of MMO development certainly beat two hours of grinding in WoW... you are not really getting anywhere in either, but you at least learn a thing or two if you code instead of grinding xp.

Shameless self plug: []

Re:Indie MMO, but what about .... (4, Interesting)

AlXtreme (223728) | about 5 years ago | (#29364001)

Two hours a week of MMO development certainly beat two hours of grinding in WoW... you are not really getting anywhere in either, but you at least learn a thing or two if you code instead of grinding xp.

Hear hear! Coding beats playing games anyday.

However what most people think of when discussing MMO's is 3D graphics/animations, and coming from a programming background this is the real hard work. There simply aren't a lot of (free/open) 3D resources you can tap into for your amateur MMO.

Having said that: roguelikes like your project are a lot of fun, even if they don't appeal to your average gamer.

Re:Indie MMO, but what about .... (2, Interesting)

Over00 (591403) | about 5 years ago | (#29364119)

The problem is that we hear a lot about vaporware from amateur / hobbyist so most people won't even care (and they're not to blame).

For us, it's not much a matter of survival but just doing what we enjoy. Should it be successful then great! If not, we still had fun doing it... just like any other hobby.

Of course, an amateur / hobbyist status doesn't grant you immunity from rants and such but so is the reality when you decide to go public with a project of yours.

So in the line of actual projects that reached release, here's my shameless plug: []

Re:Indie MMO, but what about .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29366639)

Weird, here's another golem browser game:

Re:Indie MMO, but what about .... (1)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29364397)

My first real programming language (after having done a little bit of stuff in Pascal and BASIC) was LPC, the C variant used on LPmuds. Man that shit was fun. I started out hacking out copy paste areas and ended up re-writing the entire mudlib from scratch (with backwards compatibility).

Currently underserved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364013)

"By definition a niche market is a segment that is currently underserved by the mainstream providers."

How about games that can run on Mac OS X? Because apart from WoW, which gets boring with all the gold farmers and ten-years-old kids running around, there's not many games. I'm not counting games like EVE because they got fucking lazy and used a stupid lame slow-ass Windows API emulator to run their Windows game on the Mac.

The future is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364017)

by far the best indie mmog on the block, trust me, i've been all around it

Re:The future is... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364277)

Eh, having read its wikipedia article I got the impression it's just another grindfest. Just instead of grinding mob kills, you grind mining skills, which sounds even less interesting.

One of these days somebody has to invent an MMORPG that is not based on repetitive tasks... and in which macros don't constitute cheating, they're simply not needed.

Re:The future is... (1)

MstrFool (127346) | about 5 years ago | (#29366687)

I hear you and feel your pain. I'm still looking for a way around grinding IRL. Get up, eat, go to work, come home, eat, get a little time to play and have fun, then sleep so I can get up and grind out the next day. Can't even find a good macro for it. I'm starting to suspect that grind is rather hard to get out of anything that permits improving in any way. But if a way is ever found, it'll make a lot of cash.

It does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364083)

In my experience as a player of an indie MMO (Eternal Lands), no funding means unlimited freedom for the developer. Unfortunately, it's not always a good thing. It's entirely up to the developer how he's going to take advantage of this trait. Entropy, the developer of Eternal Lands chooses to misuse or abuse that freedom. For example, when there's unappreciative player feedback regarding one particular new feature, he may punish the playerbase by cancelling the implementation of unrelated and long awaited features.

There's also the tendency of solving problems in the laziest way possible: Oh, the market is flooded with iron broadswords? Ok, so I'm going to add a new kind of ore to the game, and in order to harvest it you must have iron broadswords in your inventory. For each piece of ore you manage to collect, one sword will be removed from you. What, it doesn't make sense? Tough shit, this is my game.

GA (2, Interesting)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29364275)

Notes about GA:

i've been in the "alpha" and beta. It's a bit like WoW, Team Fortress and Unreal Tournament. Like WoW, it has a Gygaxian power curve and player economy (and all the attendant issues: n00bst0mping and buying virtual stuff with real money), and some form of player character persistence. Like TF it has classes, but you can't change classes in battle. Like UT it is round based. What happened last round seems to have little effect on anything but your ranking and leveling. It does not have PlanetSide's never ending persistent battlefield.

The MMO i want:

Non power curved (so there won't be n00bst0mping, instead levels give you flexibility), persistent battlefield (not meaningless rounds), no player trade (therefore no gold farming, twinking or buying virtual "property" with real money), rewards skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over not having a life or having more money than sense.

i know this puts me in a tiny minority. Most players want to stand godlike over newbs they killed with one click, letting the equations and die rolls do the work. Most players don't want to earn stuff, they want to buy it from a Chinese guy in a sweatshop. They don't want to think about anything beyond the next kill.

Re:GA (2, Interesting)

Walkingshark (711886) | about 5 years ago | (#29364451)

Planetside was almost what you wanted, but they could never deliver the netcode to back up the kind of action they put in the game (to this day warp-strafe and other shitty netcode exploits are the tactic of choice for "elite" planetside players) and their engine was designed in a way that made updating the maps a monumental pain in the ass (which is pretty fail for an MMO developer, they should have known they'd be wanting to do that on a regular basis and ensured it was supported as a core functionality of the engine).

I have hopes that someday we'll see a planetside-type game in a fantasy world (like you said, with leveling = versatility and gameplay being teamplay/skill/brainpower based). That could be very fun.

Re:GA (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29365435)

Yeah, i've been playing PS since it went live and i love it. i wish they had the money to fix things and make some updates. i'm still having a blast in it though. No thing has come close to replacing it for me.

i've been designing such a game for a while now. All i need is a few million dollars and a crack team of coders and artists. Or a company with those to listen to me!

This is me holding my breath.

Re:GA (1)

Frogg (27033) | about 5 years ago | (#29364563)


i agree with a lot of what you say - 'sick of all the same stuff' is a regular conversation between me and my mates.

i think that real in-game rewards is definitely a much better idea than rewarding grind-time - although i quite like the idea of in-game trading myself, it does bring with it a whole heap of unwanted problems as you rightly mention, to which there's no decent solution currently.

when you say "Non power curved (so there won't be n00bst0mping, instead levels give you flexibility)" - could you expand a little on your ideas behind "levels give you flexibility" please?

cheers :)

Re:GA (2, Interesting)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29365053)


In PlanetSide there is a certification system. At Battle Rank (BR) 1 you have something like 5 or 6 cert points. With this you can buy access to certain vehicles, weapons or support gear. You might take Light Armor and Main Battle Tank. i would take Cloaking (invisibility) and hacking (allowing me to open enemy doors faster, steal enemy vehicles). As we progress i could take more support stuff (reviving, repairing, virus installing) and you might drop your vehicle certs to become an all around ground pounder with heavy weapons, sniper rifle, flamethrower and heavy armor. You can "unlean" one cert every six hours, and spend those points on something else.

In PS i'm BR 25, if you started today at BR 1, your sniper rifle and mine would be the same. Same reload speed, same damage, same range etc. It's the same rifle, despite my being way higher ranked. But in addition to the sniper rifle, i can also install viruses, revive the dead, repair vehicles and personnel armor and and and. i'm merely more flexible. i can switch roles faster. i can hop in my Mosquito, but you'd have to run to the next base. You could unload sniping and pick up the Mosquito.

There's no n00bst0mping because no matter how high level i am and how low you are, you have a chance. i can't instagib or gank you in a way that you can't possibly escape or survive. If i'm gunning a Magrider tank and you're wearing light armor... yeah, you're boned. But you or your buddy can throw a jammer grenade at me and let loose with anti-vehicle rounds. Imagine Team Fortress 2, but you can change classes during a battle (or without having to die).... That's the certification system.

There are empire (faction) specific items which do different damage and have different special abilities, but they're balanced in a different way.

In a fantasy setting, i would do this as some sort of ancestral memory or that you have items that give you powers. As you advance you can switch between the Flaming Ring of Fiery Death and the Wand of Healing.

My Certs:
Cloaking (invisibility suit)
Mosquito (stealthy aircraft, single seat)
Advanced Mobile Station (spawn point on wheels)
Electronics Expert (fast hacking, install viruses, corrupting enemy deployables)
Advanced Medic (fast healing, revive the dead)
Combat Engineer (repair armor and vehicles, place mines, robot turrets and sensors)

My thing is blowing up generators behind enemy lines.

Re:GA (1)

Frogg (27033) | about 5 years ago | (#29367161)

interesting, cheers for that.

i've not played PlanetSide - i will likely take a look...

Re:GA (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29367389)

If you do, you can get a 14 day trial: []

Make a character in the Vanu Sovereignty (my empire/faction) and around 8pm Eastern look for people with the tag "Ghosts of the Revolution". Tell them N1H1L (nihil) sent you and that you're looking into the game. Someone will be able to help you. Get TeamSpeak because that's how we coordinate our group of 30 to 60 players. i'm on most Wednesday nights and every Thursday night. /t N1H1L {text} will talk directly to me (like whisper in other games).

Our website: []

Some of our vids: [] [] [] []

OK, that's enough whoring for me. Hope to see you in the game. :)

Re:GA (1)

Jarnin (925269) | about 5 years ago | (#29368561)

PlanetSide was a lot of fun, but when it first came out it was completely directionless. Besides the need to gain levels and acquire skills, there was no game there. It was like a massive death match with some bases and towers that could be captured. Later they added in the "lattice system" for base capture and it helped a little, but it still seemed like a grind after a while. There was no story behind base captures, no real motive to capture bases except that they were there, and you'd get a slight bonus for your team.

I've subscribed to PS several times since it's come out, and the real reason it only has ~20,000 subs these days is because it's a game that was released with limited to no direction. If they could come up with a couple more game systems that would help give the game direction, I'd gladly re-sub again.

Re:GA (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29369147)

For me the direction was conquest of continents. Later when i started leading teams, and then later several teams... it became another game. i'd send my cloakers to several bases and my heavies to another. Report intel to the other officers who would bring in tanks or reavers. In a matter of minutes, my guys could deny tech to the enemy. i was everywhere at once. i'm usually alone and running for my life so it never became a grind for me. i also play mostly to be with my outfit. Were it not for them i would have left long ago. But now that i'm in the inner circle of officers, have led raids of 60+ players and i'm well known... it's all good.

i'll agree that it's not for everyone. It has a limited appeal and they made some bad choices early on that hurt it. Thus far nothing has come close to replacing it for me.

It's unlikely there will be any new content for the game. i just hope one there will be a sequel or that one of the 5 or so games borrowing from it will be a replacement for me. i just hope i get CR5 before it ends.

Re:GA (1)

Butterforge (1443045) | about 5 years ago | (#29364589)

I think I am in your minority. I want an mmorpg that is more about having fun and enjoying some virtual roll play than hours and hours of grinding.

Re:GA (3, Interesting)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29365395)

Keep the faith, brother! i think someone will eventually figure out how to have a multiplayer game that is grind free, yet keeps people playing. May be when bandwidth becomes cheaper.

How about Neverwinter Nights Online? i LOVED NWN (there was never an NWN 2, NEVER HAPPENED). Imagine the game being centered on Sigil which allows us to use any realm in the D&D universe(s) and to allow players to make their own. You can hop into this or that realm and create a character compliant with that space. If you hop into Ravenloft, you need a stat for sanity, if you're in Dragonlance you can play a Kender. These modules could be hosted by WotC, by a third party or run locally if it's just you. Items and powers not compliant with the core rules cannot enter the central space. Players can rate and rank modules. Popular realms can have a big fancy portal. Modules could be ongoing or have a specific lifespan. Module X runs until the players kill the dragon, or they solve the mystery of the Mysterious Mystery.

Re:GA (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | about 5 years ago | (#29365125)

The game you want is EVE Online.

That leet 20 million skill point player that can fly a Titan dies just the same as anyone else when he's tooling around in a cruiser.

EVE also rewards strategy, tactics and skill.

Re:GA (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | about 5 years ago | (#29365341)

20million = leet and can fly a titan?

Holy cow, I'm leet * 2.5 \o/

Can't even fly a carrier or a dread though :/

Re:GA (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 5 years ago | (#29365417)

If you just ignore the "no player trade" requirement.

Let me guess you are in development?

Re:GA (2, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#29365765)

The MMO i want:

Non power curved (so there won't be n00bst0mping, instead levels give you flexibility), persistent battlefield (not meaningless rounds), no player trade (therefore no gold farming, twinking or buying virtual "property" with real money), rewards skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over not having a life or having more money than sense.


Theres a few problems in the basic design of such a system. I personally don't understand how people tend to think of "Flexibility" as NOT an overpowering strength. Its just as bad as n00bst0mping, essentially I'll be so flexible that my options allow me to perfectly outplay my opponent with fewer options. No player trade is a huge setback, and will actually encourage farming since people can't buy it (Albiet, EVERYONE on the server will be farming instead of just the Chinese). It'll either work out that its way too easy to get Gold, or its way too hard. And that in itself can fluctuate with player population.

I personally have not found an MMO today that doesn't reward skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over grinders or EBayers. You can argue that yes, you got beaten by the guy in the best armour because he had the best armour, but to be frank, if he's got no life he's got a better understanding of the game mechanics then you do as well, so he could have probably beaten you in a naked duel.

Re:GA (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29366303)

"There're a few problems in the basic design of such a system. I personally don't understand how people tend to think of "Flexibility" as NOT an overpowering strength. Its just as bad as n00bst0mping, essentially I'll be so flexible that my options allow me to perfectly outplay my opponent with fewer options."

Look for my post about PlanetSide where i describe what i mean by flexibility. In PS the flexibility does not cause any sort of overpowering godlike characters. Having fewer options isn't a hindrance in any significant way. i might be able to have more weapons, but they are the same weapons as you have. If you don't have a sniper rifle, your buddy does. i've been playing this game for 6 years. It works pretty well.

"No player trade is a huge setback, and will actually encourage farming since people can't buy it (Albeit, EVERYONE on the server will be farming instead of just the Chinese). It'll either work out that its way too easy to get Gold, or its way too hard. And that in itself can fluctuate with player population."

Again, i was describing PlanetSide where there is no player trade worth mentioning. Everything is plentiful for everyone. You get your equipment from a vending machine that will give you a tank every 3 minutes. There's no currency either, the vending machines just give you what you have the certs to take. i think you're missing what i'm saying because you're comparing what i'm talking about too directly to WoW and the like.

"I personally have not found an MMO today that doesn't reward skill, tactics, strategy and teamwork over grinders or EBayers. You can argue that yes, you got beaten by the guy in the best armor because he had the best armor, but to be frank, if he's got no life he's got a better understanding of the game mechanics then you do as well, so he could have probably beaten you in a naked duel."

Eh. If i'm Xth level and Bob is Xth level, but is carrying Teh Uber 1337 Sword of 1337ness +10... well to me, that sucks. His twinking gives him an unfair advantage. If Bob buys a high level character and i've earned mine, Bob and the guy who sold the character just took a steaming dump on my face. i'm weird for wanting fairness in games, i know. i get enough of people with money having unfair advantages over me all day, every day. When i play a game i'd like it to be fair. Imagine a high school baseball team bringing in a big league pro because Tim's dad has money to burn. It's completely unfair to any team playing honestly. In order to compete, they'll have to bring in ringers too. Or somehow protest it.

i'm not asking for all games to be like this, i just want a few games that aren't reskinned EQ/WoW that might cater to a different sort of player.

No player trade(NPT) is workable in several ways. Have NPT servers. If Bob has a Sword of 1337ness, you know he earned it. If i have 1000 Gold, you know i earned it. Have a NPT status for characters. When you make your character, he's a Trade Virgin. As long he never buys, sells or trades with another PC he retains that status. While he has it, it could be a mere point of pride or it could allow better drops and/or better deals with NPCs or faster leveling or what have you. Or you can have a game like PlanetSide where there's no need for currency or trade.

The kid with no life may or may not know the game better. He might have fat stacks of loot because he's played longer. Games like WoW don't involve much skill in the way i'm using the word. By skill i mean something inherent to the player, like eye hand coordination. In WoW, it's a die roll in an equation that hits you, not the player. In PlanetSide skilled n00bs can beat unskilled veterans. In WoW, the veteran can kill you with a click and let the numbers do the rest. *Click*, *die*.

Funny thing is, i'm terribly uncoordinated. Games like WoW should be great for me because they level the playing field. But in PS, i've found a niche where my skill comes not from having the fastest twitch, but by knowing the game and what my enemy is going to do. i don't fight the enemy, i avoid them and blow up their generator. i'm way more dangerous than the twitchers because i can prevent the enemy from having main battle tanks while my side still has them.

i get that people like ganking, twinking and gold farming/buying. If they're having fun, i'm cool with it. i'm not into those things. i would like to see a game like WoW with players like me in mind. We're out there. i bet there are plenty of people playing WoW as i type this that would cancel their subs today if such a game existed.

Re:GA (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#29366689)

I'll have to give planet side a try - it sounds different even if I don't enjoy it I'll have a broader perception of whats out there.

I just think alot of people have a different Idea of what Skill is. I, for one, would argue that Twitch reflexes are as important as knowing what you're oponent is going to do next. I played WoW from Year 1 up until the end of Burning Crusade, and I can say for a fact that In the olden Days, Skilled Noobs can beat non-skilled Veterans. You can look up "Unknown"'s first Mage PvP video to get the gist of it - a level 53 Mage destroying level 60's. And I continued to play the game while that was the case. I found that my skill level was enough to beat 70% of opponents.

My skill level being that I would
A) Know the most common opening, mid fight, and end fight combos for each class I'd encounter
B) Know what counters each class has for my abilities
C) Twitch Reflexes to ensure my strategies are working seemlessly.

Those were the essentials (in order of importance) to being good at PvP. Certain PvP gametypes like the Arena they introduced stressed teamwork so well, that you could probably drop twitch reflexes off the list so that if you knew the first two, your team would win matches.

Some people like to Gank, Twink, and Farm the gold, but I've never found that any of those people have been better than me because my skill is usually greater (especially than the eBayers). Jimmy got the Sword of 1337ness, but he'll never be able to hit me with it, was the general strategy.

(As Yahtzee from Zero Punctuation Reviews put it) Alot of people tended to think of MMO's as a game of Who's got the bigger boots and kick each other in the shins till one of you falls down and dies. Its the people who think the game is like that who are the easiest to defeat.

I also just have trouble grasping a no currency system and how I would fully enjoy it. I've been playing Eve alot lately, which is so FULLY centralized on its currency that it seems silly to imagine Farming for Gold again, let alone a system where money doesn't exist.

Re:Next Step in MMO Design (1)

Phrogman (80473) | about 5 years ago | (#29369101)

I think the next big step in MMO design will occur when a company decides to implement a game where there are no levels and there are no classes, just skills you obtain (likely through questing etc). Sure, this already exists in EVE, Planetside (although that's really an MMOFPS and so attracts a different type of user) and likely a few other games, but I haven't seen it in a Fantasy setting, and the Fantasy environment is the 800 lb Gorilla for MMO genres.

Levels as a concept are outdated in my opinion, and now serve only to separate new players from the end-game content reached when you max your character level. Since players are conditioned now to think of that end-game content as the actual focus of the game, they are impatient to get to it. Leveling is thus seen as a "grind" almost universally, regardless of how engaging the gameplay may actually be.

Originally, I think the purpose of levels was two-fold: first, it let a player get used to the game and their class by slowly introducing new skills/powers to them, and letting them combine those powers with their existing ones in a graduated manner; secondly, it served to slow down the character's progress and thus build the "attachment" that is intended to make a player want to continue to subscribe and thus pay the company more. This worked well when the focus of the game was on the leveling process itself, and the end-game (after you have reached the maximum level) was not really much of a focus. Games like EQ with its Raiding at high level and DAOC with its Realm vs Realm PvP at high level changed that, and introduced the concept of the "end-game", and players see that as the primary focus of playing the most games now.

This worked well enough for years, but I think now that players have become generally savvy enough that they can pick up new skills faster than the leveling system allows, and they are focused on the end game as the only viable game, its become time to drop the level (and thus the grind) and introduce a flatter experience curve to MMOs.

EVE's offline learning system is interesting in this regard. You gain skills over time in the real world, as long as you are subscribed. The rest of the time you play the game as best you can given the skills you have. With a good game design (the "end-game" has now become the "game" with a level-less design), this should work quite well, although it does suffer from the problem EVE has: new players can never equal the old players in their skill levels, although diminishing returns should reduce the impact of that.

Planetside's Cert system (described by a player somewhere else in this post), seems to work the same way, if not identically in mechanics (ie its not offline learning). There is a limit to the skills you can pick up, but a new player with Skill X at level Y is the equal of an experienced player with Skill X at level Y. The more experienced player will simply have greater flexibility due to having more skills.

Now, I expect that UO was designed like this based on things I read in the past, and if so it was ahead of its time. Star Wars Galaxies in its original incarnation had the best character design system I can recall, and it worked much this way, with the exception that you could easily ungrind skills and pick up new ones, slowly transforming your character into a different class effectively. This was a very compelling design, and its a shame they tossed it.

From a developer's perspective of course, Levels are a great thing as they ease development and class balancing problems. Same thing with classes, by clearly defining what skills and abilities a character can have at any point in their development, they make it easier for the development staff to create the desired balance. They do nothing for the players outside of this IMHO though. Balancing character skill sets to ensure that the gameplay is fair and equal no matter what skills a player chooses is of course desirable and good game design generally, but to do so at the expense of player enjoyment in game, is I think an outdated concept.

Sadly, WOW - being the ultimate assembly of old ideas in design implemented extremely effetively - is only serving to perpetuate all of these old conventions. Because of its enormous financial success, I think new game designs are "findlandizing" to Blizzard instead of trying to break new ground. The result is less innovation rather than more. The games industry is pulling in its feelers and like Hollywood does so often, just going with what worked in the past, regurgitated in a new form, and hoping the player base doesn't notice until the publisher has raked in enough cash to cover their development costs, after that its gravy until the server merges hit.

To be a real WOW-killer, a new title is going to have to break new ground in such a spectacular and successful manner that it surpasses WOW and makes its design look antiquated and outdated. It has to offer massively compelling gameplay with a focus on an effective end-game concept right from release. Then it has to manage to attract a number of initial subscribers that is huge enough to satisfy player expectations and indicate a success for them. To me this means about 1m subscribers in the first few weeks.

I had hoped that SWTOR may achieve this, and perhaps it may, but having seen the gameplay demos and gotten a bit of a feel for their design concept, I think the game will be less impressive than the hype would suggest. Nonetheless its the next best candidate for a truely breakthrough game. Sadly, I think its just another level-based clone.

Re:Next Step in MMO Design (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29369481)

Excellent analysis!

Yeah, it's time throw off the strangle hold of Gygaxian power curves and class/level straight jackets.

You want Aces High (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29372739)

- 100% player-skill based
- no levels, skills, ...
- no artificial improvements by playing (except temporary access to minor improvements, i.e., unusual aircraft)
- quite long rounds, qualifying as "persistent" (usually you wont see the end of a round, but if you do it's a big event)

Feels like this kind of game has existed for decades (airwarrior/aol, warbirds/iEN), and numbers seem to have been pretty constant over the last couple of years. No big changes in players, they seem to be the same year-in year-out - except some random noobs who don't stay long enough to understand the basics of the game.

However, you still have n00bstomping deluxe. It's not artificially provided by the game, but by an extreme learning curve and spread of skill-levels between n00bs and those who've either gone through proper training or have been there for 10+ years - or both.

Urban Dead (1)

uncledrax (112438) | about 5 years ago | (#29379139)

UrbanDead isn't that far from what you're talking about.. there's actually a serious lack of 'meta-abilities' in the game (like trading), which imo go to help it and keep it from being being noon-stompy.

The issue alot of ppl have with it is it's a real-time turn/based sorta game.. when you're waiting for turns to refresh, your toon is just sitting there (hopefully barricaded up in a building with other survivors for protection...)

Re:Urban Dead (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#29379355)

i'll give it a look. The turn based aspect appeals to me because, well... my eye hand coordination is crap.


Hi Cat here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29364403)

i think eve online is very good for what they do lol x

Based on personal experience (2, Interesting)

PegamooseG (991448) | about 5 years ago | (#29365579)

Zwei2stein mentioned the REALLY Indie developers (i.e. Hobbyists and Amatures). This is the bucket where we're catagorized. Some of our greatest hurdles could be handled by throwing more money at it, but it's given us the motivation to find other, cheaper avenues for getting things done.

In our situation, we have a very small team of friends working on the game (both engine and content). At the time, we can only afford the bare minimal amount to host the game's site. Mostly, we put more time and energy into it than money, and even that is difficult while managing full-time jobs, families, social lives, etc.. If we had a large basket of money, we could hire more developers, artists, marketeers, and so on.

Even though we don't have that big basket of money, we still manage. It takes a lot of discipline, sacrifice, persistence. I get up two hours earlier than I really need to, so I can spend the evenings with my family. It takes discipline and determination to get up that early, but it's two hours of uninterupted time while everyone else is sleeping.

Can't afford artists? Well... What we can't do ourselves, we seek elsewhere. We started hitting the art forums and university art departments asking for volunteers. True, many artists are in it for the money. But, there are a few out there who are willing to help us a bit for the exposure and the practice.

Can't afford marketing and advertising? Well... We mention our game on various forums where people are playing a similar style of game. We've also looked into various ad-exchange sites. We've contacted reviewers and offered perks to some other gamers. If you just keep an open mind, there are a lot of fairly cheap ways to spread the word.

My greatest hurdle is getting more content into our game. I have pages and pages of ideas. It takes time to add new content, test it, and release it. I have more content ideas than I know what to do with. And, that's an awesome problem to have.

We didn't start working on our game to compete with other games out there. We don't even view them as competition. We view them as the community. We set out to create a game that we enjoy playing, based on ideas and concepts of other games that we enjoy playing. Yes, we'd love to reach the point to quit our day jobs, but if not much ever comes of it, we're having tons of fun along the way and gaining a lot of useful development experience.

If anyone would like to try our game, we'd love to hear your opinion:

And, if any of you are developing your own game out there, look us up and let us know about it. We look forward to seeing what you create, too.

Re:Based on personal experience (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 5 years ago | (#29369839)

I continue to hear good things about you from the folks playing Twilight Heroes, and I continue to forget to actually create an account and check you guys out. Just about everything you say in your post applies comprehensively to me and my experiences as a "so indie it's barely more than a hobby" kind of developer.

Mortal Online... (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | about 5 years ago | (#29366399)

Another indie company out there, making an overly ambitious PvP game in a fantasy setting, is pretty much the antithesis of what 'indy developers' should look like.

They announced a beta whereby, you would pay for the whole game up front, and they'd let you into what they called a "staged beta", where most features weren't "turned on" (or what people really believe, is that they aren't even developed).

I had high hopes for that game, but unfortunately it's going to wind up as a steaming pile of shit. I am looking forward to Global Agenda now.

A tale in the Desert (2, Interesting)

hlopez (220083) | about 5 years ago | (#29366609)

Anyone remember playing this game a few years back?
It was awesome how you could interact with the developers in game almost on a daily basis, even the president of the company played every other day.
I guess it never took off because of its niche market, but the lack of combat and need of watching you back made character development and in
the case of this game developing your compound your main goal.

Re:A tale in the Desert (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 5 years ago | (#29366819)

I played it for a while. It was a pretty cool game, but the story part of it was poorly implemented. It was set up such that the players could change the world or beat the game by accomplishing certain goals. But it mostly ended up being the players really had little control and progression basically came down to what the devs had time to implement. I wonder if it has changed much since then... do any current players have a more up to date analysis?

Graphics Cost Money - But Gameplay Doesn't Have To (2, Insightful)

xepel (1573443) | about 5 years ago | (#29369379)

I think the problem with most 'indie' games is that they don't have boatloads of cash behind them which seems necessary to have 'supercool bleeding-edge graphics.' So you automatically lose all the people who won't play anything that isn't 'pretty enough.' Fact is, it takes a bit of time and effort to explore the game and see how gameplay is. It's a ton easier to simply see the graphics and make a judgment on that. I have been playing an 'indie' MMORPG - Clanlord ( - for a good 10 years now. The population is small, and the graphics still look 10 years old, but I think it's a really fun game. It won't bring in those people who need the supreme graphics, but you get to know everyone, people are mature, and you get to play things in a different way than many other MORPG. Hey, it even has no monthly fee now, which is almost necessary when competing against all the other options. CL will be an Indie MMOG for years to come, even if it doesn't have the largest playerbase. And that's where I expect most indie games to be - niche games that do well in their niche, but that's about it.

Re:Graphics Cost Money - But Gameplay Doesn't Have (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | about 5 years ago | (#29369987)

Agreed. Quality art can be expensive, and a lot of niche games--particularly browser-based games--can find an audience that enjoys other aspects without requiring flashy graphics. One of my favorite games uses stick figures as their design model, which isn't just inexpensive, it's also pretty funny. I've found a way to get by in my own game with stylized greyscale GIFs (thank goodness for PhotoShop filters!) that convey just enough visual appeal to get the point across while I focus on my game's real strengths: humor, quality writing, and strategy (in that order). You'd be surprised how many people can get hooked by a good joke, or a plot that--even if it's not literature--is at least good enough to do a comic book justice.
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